|'69 Road RunnerFinal Assembly Point: Chrysler's Lynch Road Assembly Plant, Detroit, MI|
Go to any Mopar show, and you're bound to see a lot of '69 Road Runner hardtops. Little wonder-per The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-75, there were 48,549 built that year, making it the best-selling two-door Plymouth and Plymouth's top-selling B-Body. But you'll be hard pressed to find one that looks as good as Keith and Deb Shue's '69 from East Berlin, Pennsylvania.
In fact, this car was in such bad shape at one time that it almost got pressed-for good.
As Keith remembers, "It was-how did my wife put it?-'a piece.' It needed floorboards, quarters, and a lot more than just TLC. I tell everybody what's original on the car are the framerails, the roof, the left door, and the firewall." he adds, "plus the engine wasn't much to write home about either"-so he didn't. "I couldn't deal with the engine. It had a rod out of the side of the block."
Even though the body was severely rusted, there was still enough car to start with in Keith's eyes, though this project didn't get underway until 2001 (eight years after he bought the car). "We'd more or less left it sit because we had another car," Keith says. That other car was a '68 Charger that he'd built and enjoyed before selling it and starting on this one. Instead of building a Pro Street or Pro Touring car, he decided to go all the way back to how it rolled off the line at Lynch Road-an original four-speed, console-shifted, bucket seat car.
Sourcing his restoration sheetmetal from Harden's and Auto Body Specialties, plus plenty of electrical and underhood parts from YearOne, Keith put some 1,400 hours into this car to turn it into the eye-catcher that you see here. he did have some outside help. "I farmed the sheetmetal work out to Terry's Rod Shop in Hummelstown. When it came back, we did all the plastic work and the paint too."
Of the color, Keith says a lot of work went into getting it as close as possible to original before he sprayed it on. "I spent countless hours on the phone with the PPG library to be sure that I got the right formula for the right color."
Quick-name two original body parts used in the restoration. If you said roof panel and lef
While Keith put the rejuvenated body back together, he had help in nearby York to handle the mechanicals. "I had a friend, Dave Leaonard, do it. He did the driveline for me while I was putting the rest of the car back together."
One big detail that's period-correct for the '69, but wasn't on the car when it was new, are the cast-aluminum "recall" wheels. Instead of running the risks associated with one of the remaining sets of Kelsey Hayes wheels, Keith got a reproduction set from Specialty Wheels.
When all was said and done, the Bird was finished just before the '06 Chryslers At Carlisle weekend. Someone said that if you are old enough to remember the '60s, you weren't really there. Keith was there, but back then he wasn't old enough to take a new Mopar down the road. He says, "I'm 43, and I can vaguely remember these cars [when they were new]." If you were there then, you'd remember that Motor Trend picked the Road runner as their Car of the Year for 1969.
Does he have any advice for anyone planning a similar restoration project? "Do it right the first time; it'll cost you a lot less in the long run." Keith also says that walking around at shows like Chryslers At Carlisle and the Mopar Nationals, and asking about parts sources and restoration shops can prove valuable later on.